Science and Homosexuality Through the Lens of a Brazilian Pastor

[All links lead to pages in Portuguese except when otherwise noted.]

For those who fight for homosexual rights in Brazil, enemy #1 has a first and last name: Silas Malafaia. This pastor, a graduate in psychology, heads the Victory in Christ Assembly of God Church and stands behind the conservative values condemning marriage between people of the same sex. And despite heavy opposition to the ideas he espouses, Malafaia has a very large following throughout the country.

On February 3, 2013, Malafaia was interviewed by Brazilian journalist Marília Gabriela on a public television network. He used the occasion to comment on controversial  topics. He defended tithing for members of evangelical churches and denounced criminalizing homophobia – the mainstay in the complementary law bill 122, and same-sex civil marriage, which is supported by the freedom of expression for all citizens enshrined in article 5 of the Brazilian Constitution.

Danilo Thomaz provided an analysis of the topic in a February 12 article on the website of media watchdog Observatório de Imprensa. The premise is that arguments over social networks are “the virtual equivalent to a sidewalk fight in front of a corner bar.”

A discussão sobre as liberdades públicas e a igualdade de direitos – valores sobre os quais se ampara a questão dos homossexuais – é transformada em uma histeria compartilhada na qual os dois lados, munidos com seus 140 caracteres, se diferenciam no que defendem e se assemelham na forma com que argumentam. Acabam, do mesmo modo, por anular o debate e deslegitimar a questão. Populistas e vigaristas, à direita e à esquerda, de quebra, aproveitam para se promoverem.

Arguing over civil liberties and equal rights – values addressed when dealing with the question of homosexuals – turns to shared histeria whereby both sides, each armed with their allotted 140 characters, are diverge in what they defend and converge in the way they state their case. They ultimately end up annulling the debate and delegitimizing the question. Populists and hustlers on both the right and the left use the opportunity to bill themselves.

To justify his opposition to gay people, Malafaia appeals to genetics. He says that the option of being homosexual is merely behavioral and that “there is no gay gene.” The controversy hit the social networks and soon found its way into Twitter's trending topics. The blog BHAZ said that the pastor used unknown studies to back up his views. The February 6 post stated:

Desta vez, o pastor, em meio à sua inflamada argumentação contra a criminalização da homofobia e a legalização do casamento civil igualitário, resolveu apelar para o que ele chama de “ciência”. Seu objetivo, ao lançar mão de argumentos ditos “científicos” era, em suma, afirmar que a homossexualidade na verdade não passa de um comportamento “aprendido ou imposto”, que ninguém nasce homossexual e que, consequentemente, os ativistas LGBT não teriam o direito de lutar para legalizar o casamento civil igualitário ou pedir a criminalização das manifestações de ódio e do preconceito motivados pela orientação sexual e identidade de gênero.

This time the pastor, amidst his inciting arguments against the criminalization of homophobia  and the legalization of same-sex civil marriage, decided to appeal to what he calls “science.” His objective, by drawing on so-called “scientific” arguments was, in short, to affirm that homosexuality is actually nothing more than a “learned or imposed” behavior, that nobody is born a homosexual and that, consequently, LGBT activists do not have the right to fight for the legalization of same-sex civil marriages or to call for the criminalization of acts of hatred and prejudice based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

On the day following the program with journalist Marília Gabriela (February 4), Eli Vieira, a Brazilian geneticist pursuing his doctorate at the University of Cambrige, recorded the following video:

On February 16, Silas Malafaia posted a video response to Eli Vieira, calling him a “pseudo-doctoral student” of genetics:

The negative reactions continued. On February 8, a petition to revoke Silas Malafaia's professional license was started on The number of signatures was high. However, those who sympathized with the pastor posted support messages on Twitter, asking people not to sign the document. This was the case for @CASSIANECANTORA, who tweeted on February 15:

Eu ja assinei… Pessoal vamos votar pela NAO cassação do registro de psicólogo do Pr Silas Malafaia acessa o link ai …

I already signed… People, let's vote NO on revoking Pastor Silas Malafaia's license to practice psychology. Click on this link

Also on Twitter, Marcelo Arantes (@dr_marcelo) supported the petition (February 13):

Já exerceu seu poder de cidadão hoje? Assine esta petição pela cassação do registro de Psicólogo de Silas Malafaia. …

Have you exercised your citizen power today? Sign the petition to revoke Silas Malafaia's license to practice psychology.

In an official act, the Victory in Christ Assembly of God Church collected names in support of not revoking the license and posted them on its website. Malafaia further expressed his wish to sue The website reads:

Após polêmica gerada em torno da entrevista do Pr. Silas Malafaia ao programa “De frente com Gabi”, foi criada uma petição pública on-line na tentativa de cassar seu registro de psicólogo. Entretanto, em nenhuma das entrevistas concedidas à imprensa Silas Malafaia se apresenta como psicólogo, e sim como pastor, o que não justifica uma petição que envolva o Conselho Regional de Psicologia.

Following the controversy surrounding Pastor Silas Malafaia's interview on the show De Frente Com Gabi, an online public petition was drafted in an attempt to revoke his license as a psychologist. However, in none of the interviews granted to the press does Silas Malafaia introduce himself as a psychologist; he introduces himself as a pastor, so there is no justification for the petition involving the Regional Board of Psychology.

On February 7, Maria Berenice Dias, an attorney who works to advance the rights of the LGBT population, also posted a comment on YouTube:

Pastor Silas Malafaia has also compared homosexuals to criminals. “I love homosexuals like I love criminals,” he stated. The blog Pragmatismo Político denounced his statement on February 5:

A correlação valorativa entre “homossexuais” e “bandidos” é odiosa. Ela objetiva reforçar o vínculo entre homossexualidade e desvio, sustentando, sorrateiramente, a ideia de que a homossexualidade assim como o fenômeno da delinquência atenta e prejudica a sociedade. Em outros termos, a analogia diz o seguinte: os bandidos existem, são um fato social, mas precisamos mudá-los, puni-los e “ressocializá-los” para que não lesem a sociedade. Sem afirmar diretamente, Malafaia pensa o mesmo sobre os homossexuais; eles são um fato social, existem, mas precisamos corrigi-los para que não lesem à família, os bons costumes, às leis naturais, à palavra de Deus etc.

Comparing homosexuals to criminals is outrageous. It seeks to reinforce the connection between homosexuality and deviance, cunningly supporting the idea the homosexuality like delinquency attacks and jeopardizes society. In other words, the analogy is as follows: criminals exist, they are a social fact, but we need to change them, punish them and “reeducate them” so that they do not harm society. Without saying so directly, Malafaia thinks the same about homosexuals: they are a social fact, they exist, but we need to correct them so they do not harm the family, good practice, natural laws, the word of God, etc.

The religious leader was also condemned for using the word homosexualism since the correct term is homosexuality. Despite this, Marlos Ápyus criticized the correction in his Facebook post on February 5:

Antes de mais nada, eu acho que vocês deveriam largar essa bobagem de condenar o uso do termo “homossexualismo” por já ter sido entendido como uma doença. Alguém muito mal informado no passado o usou neste sentido, a OMS corrigiu o erro em 1990 e, sem explicação evidente, duas décadas depois fomos “obrigados” a falar em “homossexualidade”, apenas reforçando um equívoco já reparado. Eu vou continuar falando homossexualismo. Porque comunismo não é doença, porque romantismo não é doença, porque lesbianismo não é doença. E porque homossexualismo jamais deveria ter sido considerado uma.

Firstly, I think you all should stop foolishly criticizing use of the term “homosexualism” on account of its once having been understood as a disease. Some misinformed person in the past used it like this; the WHO corrected the mistake in 1990 and, for no any clear reason, two decades later we are “obligated” to say “homosexuality,” merely reinforcing the already redressed mistake. I am going to continue to say homosexualism. Because communism is not a sickness, because romanticism is not a sickness, because lesbianism is not a sickness. And because homosexualism should never have been considered one.

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